The issue of what to do with the beleaguered Astrodome has been lingering for years. And although an official decision has not yet been made, at least there's now at least a sort of deadline for it.
At a Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation (HCSCC) board meeting on Wednesday, after approving a top-secret non-disclosure agreement recently requested by the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies for its Astrodome plan, board chairman Edgardo Colón set a deadline of June 10 for private developers to submit proposals for the iconic dome's future.
" We'll talk to anybody who wants to talk to us about the Astrodome."
The HCSCC has been hearing dozens of half-baked plans from private developers and concerned citizens, and now wants them to be officially submitted for consideration. "It puts us on a timeline," Colón said.
"We'll talk to anybody who wants to talk to us about the Astrodome," he continued, explaining that the criteria for consideration by the board are compatibility with the existing operations and master plan for Reliant Park, compliance with existing contracts and events and a viable funding mechanism.
From there, the HCSCC will submit feasible, privately-financed plans, along with any of its own public use recommendations, to the Harris County Commissioners Court for consideration during its Capital Improvements Program Hearing on June 25.
"Is there a feasible plan that's private? We don't know the answer to that — so far, no," Harris County judge Ed Emmett told the press after the public meeting, conceding that that demolition is an option, but exploration of options for ways to preserve the Astrodome in a way that is useful to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and to the Houston Texans, with an added benefit to the community, is his priority.
Once the plans have been submitted, Emmett hopes to open up to dialogue with the community at town hall meetings and public hearings.
"If you go out now . . . you get as many ideas as there are people in the room," Emmett said. "We need to narrow that so that the public knows where we're going."
The fate of the Astrodome has taken on new urgency with Houston one of two finalists to host the 2017 Super Bowl. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that extra parking from a demolished Astrodome space would benefit Houston's bid.
Want more on the debate? Read the contrasting viewpoints of CultureMap network news director Chris Baldwin's column on the need to tear down the Astrodome and CultureMap contributor James Glassman's plea to save what he calls "Houston's Eiffel Tower" at all costs.